Every so often I record a short ‘thought’ for the Tendring Talking Times. My previous thought is available here.
There is a huge amount of division in society at the moment. The biggest culprit is of course Brexit – friends have fallen out with each other over this one. I personally have lost friends over this issue – some people see me as now being ‘beyond the pale’ because I hold a different opinion to them. Similarly, our friends across the Atlantic in America have a divisive figure in Donald Trump: people seem to either love him, or love to hate him. Division is everywhere you look!
Jesus had something to say about division – and not what you would expect. He said:
Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to turn
‘“a man against his father,
a daughter against her mother,
a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law –
a man’s enemies will be the members of his own household.”
Jesus says here that he is more divisive than Donald Trump, more divisive than Brexit. He even divides families. How so? Because ultimately humanity is divided not into Brexiters or Remainers, or any political division – but rather into those who accept Jesus Christ and those who do not. Jesus himself as a divisive figure – some people loved him, but many hated him even to the point of nailing him to a cross.
Jesus said that to follow him was taking up your cross – to always be at odds with the world, including even one’s own family. The battle is even inside us as we seek to put to death within us that which is sinful. Christians are never promised a life of ease, but rather a life of taking up one’s cross and dying to sin as we rise to new life in Christ.
As Jesus says elsewhere in the same chapter, “The student is not above the teacher, nor a servant above his master.” If Jesus caused division and caused people to hate him, those who follow him will also find the same.
However, this is not a reason to despair and to doubt – it is a sign of God’s favour. Think of Jesus’ famous words in the Beatitudes: “‘Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” Those who stand up for Jesus, who stand up for righteousness, can expect persecution in today’s world. However, this is not a cause for concern but a sign of God’s blessing. Jesus is a divisive figure – as he always has been. We are living in days when it is becoming increasingly difficult to follow him in public life. And yet we know that when we encounter opposition for Jesus’ sake we are pleasing our Father in heaven.
Those who persevere to the end, those who take up their cross and follow Jesus, no matter how hard it is, will be inheritors of eternal life. In Jesus’ letter to the church in Laodicea from Rev 3, he says: “To the one who is victorious, I will give the right to sit with me on my throne, just as I was victorious and sat down with my Father on his throne.” Those who persevere to the end, those who do not give up in the struggle, now enjoy the favour of God and will sit on the throne with the Lord Jesus and be with him forever.
As George Duffield put it in his hymn, Stand Up, Stand Up For Jesus:
Stand up, stand up for Jesus,
the strife will not be long;
this day the noise of battle,
the next the victor’s song.
To him that overcometh
a crown of life shall be;
he with the King of glory
shall reign eternally.